I got excited when I found out about the Coca-Cola Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I am
collector of "things" and one of the things I collect is Coke memorabilia. So, to get to see
so many "collectables" in one place got my attention. I was not disappointed during my visit
to the Museum.
The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is owned and operated by the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, and is one of the Foundation's key success stories in preserving Vicksburg's unique historic and architectural heritage.
The museum houses a wide variety of exhibits interpreting the beginnings of Coca-Cola, the history of the Biedenharn family, the process used to first bottle Coca-Cola, a reproduction of the equipment first used to bottle Coke, the history of Coca-Cola advertising, and Coca-Cola memorabilia from past to present.
Joseph Biedenharn was born on December 13, 1866, in Vicksburg, the eldest of eight sons and four daughters. His father, Herman, and Uncle Henry, founded a retail confectionary business known as Biedenharn and Brother. Joe eventually took over the operation of the candy business and it became the Biedenharn Candy Company.
In 1890, Joseph and his father built a two-story brick building in downtown Vicksburg which served as Joe's wholesale candy company on one side and his father's shoe store on the other.
In the summer of 1894, Joseph took a popular fountain beverage known as Coca-Cola, put it in bottles and shipped it into the rural area outside the Vicksburg city limits.
It was the first time Coca-Cola had been sold in bottles. Joe Biedenharn created a totally new concept of marketing the beverage and established the cornerstone of the independent network of franchised bottlers who now distribute bottled Coca-Cola all over the world. Joe Biedenharn had created what we take for granted-bottled Cokes.
Later Joe and his brothers acquired franchises to bottle Coca-Cola in Shreveport and Monroe, Louisiana; Texarkana, Wichita Falls, San Antonio, Temple and Uvalde, Texas.
During the early days of bottling, the bottler patiently bottled a single bottle at a time. He used a mesh mask and heavy gloves because bottles exploded from time to time due to the poor quality of glass.
A gas generator was used in produce carbon dioxide gas. The attendant would drop small quantities of marble chips from the top container into the tank below which contained a solution of hydrochloric acid and water. The acid and marble chips would interact to produce carbon dioxide and calcium chloride.
The carbonator used the carbon dioxide from the gas generator to produce carbonated water. When the gas reached a predetermined pressure, the carbonator unit was filled with cold water, capped, and the gas allowed to flow into it from the gas generator. When the pressure was equal, the valves to the carbonator and gas generator were closed and the container was agitated rapidly by the wheel and handle at the bottom. This action allowed the cold water to absorb the carbon dioxide-thus producing carbonated water.
He then allowed one ounce of syrup to flow from the syrup supply into the bottle; then the bottle was filled with carbonated water, capped, and put into the open case along-side. When the case was filled, the bottler would transfer it to a horse and wagon for delivery.
The bottler would work half a day bottling enough to make a day's delivery.
The Biedenharns bottled Coca-Cola here and in other locations in downtown Vicksburg until 1938 when the new Coca-Cola plant was constructed on another location on Washington Street.
The building was sold out of the family and used for a variety of commercial purposes. In 1979, the family repurchased the building and began a rehabilitation using historic photographs and insurance maps of the 1890s to restore the building's major spaces and to install exhibits interpreting the Biedenharn's Coca-Cola heritage. The family then donated the building to the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation.
The museum features the history of Coca-Cola along with equipment of the type used to bottle the first Coca-Cola in 1894. A wide variety of original Coca-Cola advertising and memorabilia is on display to allow you to follow the evolution of Coca-Cola from 1890s to the present.
The authentically restored candy store and office area features furnishings and displays of the 1890s and offer ice cream, delicious homemade candies, fountain Cokes, Coke floats and a wide selection of Coca-Cola souvenirs.
Monday - Saturday 9am - 5pm
Sunday - 1:30pm - 4:30pm
Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
1107 Washington Street